Can I Use Base Paint Without Tint?

Can I use base paint without tint? That’s a question many homeowners ask themselves. After all, it has “paint” in the name, so it has to work like paint, right? Well, not exactly.

Technically, you can use base paint without tint. You can apply it to your walls, and it will dry. But, without tint, you aren’t going to get the color you want, even if you were just aiming for white. Additionally, the paint color below – if there is one – will bleed right through.

In this article, we’re going to explore the world of base paint, including what it is and how it works. Additionally, we’ll take a look at the tinting process, why it’s important, and what steps you can take if you use base paint without tint by mistake.

Can I Use Base Paint Without Tint

What Is Base Paint?

First, you may be surprised to hear that base paint isn’t primer. While the primer is used as a base coat before applying a new color on a wall, base paint isn’t used for base coats. Instead, base paint is a medium used to create colored paints.

While it has “paint” in the name, base paint isn’t a complete paint, in a traditional sense. It’s a foundation specifically designed to have something added to it – namely colorant – before it’s used.

If you open a can of base paint, it usually looks white in appearance. However, the bulk of base paint is actually clear. The clear portion can integrate with the materials found in the colorant, essentially accepting the solids, creating the final tint. That causes the hue of the paint to change, as the colorants are incorporated into the clear material.

What Does It Mean to Tint Paint?

Tinting paint is the process of adding colorants to achieve paint in the desired color. Colorants are concentrated paint pigments, so a small amount can create a big difference in the paint’s coloring.

If you get your base paint tinted at the store, it’s placed in a machine that will dispense colorants in specific amounts. The employee punches in a code for the color you want, and the machine adds colorant to achieve that particular hue.

While most people have their paint tinted in-store, you can technically tint your own paint. However, this process usually involves taking an existing paint (not base paint) and adjusting its color by adding different colored paint.

If you were wondering how to tint paint at home, the approach is fairly simple. For example, if you have a paint that’s a deep forest green, and you were hoping for something closer to medium green, you could add white paint to the green. Once stirred, the green paint would be lighter than it was originally.

Now, it is important to note that adjusting a paint color at home is challenging. Sure, lightening paint with white is fairly straightforward. However, if you have a forest green and want it to match a teal from a paint swatch, figuring out how to pull that off isn’t.

When you get paint tinted at a store, a variety of colorants get dispensed. Usually, you won’t know exactly which ones are involved. Plus, you might not know precisely which ones are already in your existing paint, so picking what to add usually amounts to guesswork.

Can I Use Base Paint Without Tint?

Technically, yes, but the result isn’t going to be ideal. Painting with untinted base paint doesn’t do any harm, but the paint is lacking colorant. The colorant is necessary to create a complete paint that offers appropriate coverage.

Even if you’re going for pure white walls, you need colorant added to the base paint. Otherwise, the paint doesn’t have the amount of pigment that it should. If you’re trying to cover an existing color with white, the odds that the color will bleed through are significantly higher with an untinted based paint than a tinted one.

The results will be particularly disastrous if you try to use untinted deep base paint. Deep base paint has the least amount of white pigment, allowing it to accept more colorant and create deeper colors when tinted. Without colorant, it dries somewhat clear, offering little to no coverage.

Essentially, base paint must be tinted before painting with it if you want strong coverage and the correct final color. The colorants make a difference.

Paint Bases Explained: The Different Kinds of Paint Bases

There are four different kinds of paint bases. There are two labeling processes. With one approach, the numbers one through four are used. You’ll see cans labeled Base 1, Base 2, Base 3, and Base 4.

Base 1 contains the most white pigment. It’s best for whites or pastels. Base 2 is for slightly darker hues, though still leans toward the lighter side. Base 3 may be best for mid-toned paint. It has less white pigment that

Base 1 or Base 2, allowing it to accept more colorant. Base 4 is for dark paints, as it has the least amount of white pigment and can incorporate the most colorant.

Some companies go a different route when naming their base paints. You may see labels like White Base, Pastel Base, Light Base, Medium Base, and Deep Base. The base you need to use depends on the color you’re trying to achieve.

White Base has the most preexisting white pigment, followed by Pastel Base and Light Base. Medium Base and Deep Base are for medium and darker colors, respectively, with Deep Base featuring the lowest amount of white pigments.

Accent Base is another potential base paint label you may see. The goal of Accent Base is to achieve rich, vibrant colors. Generally, they have very little preexisting white pigment, allowing them to accept more colorant for stronger results.

What Happens When I Use Base Paint Without Tint?

Maybe you already have a can of base paint without tint. What would be the harm in using it? It could be fine, right?

Well, whether you get decent results depends on a few things. First, what color (if any) are you painting over? Second, what kind of paint base do you have?

If you have a White Base or Base 1 untinted paint and are painting over a white wall, essentially just trying to refresh the current color, you could be fine. Those paint bases have the most white tint, so you will get some color deposits. Plus, you’re not trying to change the color, just rejuvenate the underlying one. While your results may not be spectacular – or could make several coats necessary – they could be passable.

However, in nearly every other scenario, using base paint without tint isn’t going to work. Since part of all base paints is clear, you won’t get complete coverage.

If you are covering a white wall and using any base paint aside from White Base or Base 1 untinted paint, the result may seem streaky or patchy. Even though the only pigment in the bases is white, no two whites are the same. Since the coverage is lacking, it won’t look even.

For walls that aren’t white, base paint without tint isn’t enough to cover the old paint up. Base paints aren’t rich with pigment, so they won’t offer strong coverage. You will see the old color through the new paint; it’s that simple.

What to Do If I Used Base Paint Without Tint by Mistake?

If you used base paint without tint by mistake, don’t panic. The situation is very easy to correct.

First, let the coat of untinted base paint dry. That way, when you add new paint, the two won’t try to mix. The new coat will simply go over the untinted base paint layer.

Second, determine if you want to have your existing base paint tinted or if you want to buy different paint. If you only used a little, you may be able to bring it back to the hardware store and have some colorant added. Then, you could use the rest just as you usually would.

However, this approach isn’t ideal if you’ve used a significant amount of the base paint already. Usually, paint tinting machines at hardware stores are programmed to add colorant to full cans or buckets. Since you’ve used some, you don’t have the same number of gallons in the can or bucket now. The amount of colorant won’t be ideal for the paint you have remaining, so the result may be less than desirable.

Additionally, certain base paints can’t be turned into specific colors. For example, making a Deep Base or Base 4 paint white probably won’t work.

In those cases, buying new paint – either colored paint or base paint that you have tinted in-store – is the better approach. You can make sure you get the look you want and that the quality of the paint will work for your needs.

Finally, paint your walls with the now-tinted base paint or your new paint. You shouldn’t see any issues during the application or when your paint dries.


Ultimately, while the answer to “can I use base paint without tint” is technically “yes,” it isn’t ideal. Luckily, if you have untinted base paint – or used it by mistake – it isn’t the end of the world. You can paint over untinted base paint, or have it tinted if you haven’t dipped into it yet.

I hope you enjoyed the article above. If you have any tips that can help someone who has base paint without tint on hand, share them in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share this article with anyone who may appreciate it.